Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A Community Says Goodbye

Reverend Kyle Bennett says goodbye to parishioners.. Photo by Steve Stefanides

Reverend Kyle Bennett says goodbye to parishioners.. Photo by Steve Stefanides

They say the best judge of a person’s impact in their community lies in the friends they leave behind. If that is true, then Reverend Kyle Bennett leaves behind a community that thought a great deal of him if last Sunday was any indication.

On Sunday, December 31st, the last day of 2017, the community came out in strength to say goodbye to the man who had made a major impact the last twelve and a half years as the pastor of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Marco Island. The positive energy, love and support for him and his family was easily palpable within the small church that Sunday morning.

“I’ll never forget when Father Kyle told me that he saw the entire community as part of his congregation. This was after I asked him how he would be involved within the community,” said Jack Patterson, who served on the search committee that hired him to take over their parish. “He truly was engaged within the community and left an indelible mark within it and within the parish,” continued Patterson.

Reverend Kyle Bennett says goodbye to parishioners.. Photo by Steve Stefanides

Reverend Kyle Bennett says goodbye to parishioners.. Photo by Steve Stefanides

The church was filled to capacity with people who there to say goodbye and give thanks to the man they had come to call their friend and pastor. Kevin Fitzgerald, the Senior Warden of the church delivered the sermon that day. He spoke in glowing terms, with some good-hearted ribbing, of how Father Kyle had left his mark within his congregation. This at times caused the unassuming pastor to become somewhat embarrassed with the platitudes, laughing at the good natured jokes, but all the time smiling.

Some of the loudest applause came when Fitzgerald spoke of how Father Kyle had grown the church by welcoming in younger parishioners with innovative programs and community outreach.

Fitzgerald reflected back to his interview with Father Kyle, and his statement that, “If you’re looking for someone to just keep the status-quo, I’m probably not your guy.” Said Fitzgerald, “I am so glad we didn’t.”

One of the projects close to Father Kyle’s heart is the development of Camp Able. This is a summer camp that caters to children with special needs. The Marco Island community has shown its outpouring of support for this dignity driven, week-long camp which offers many opportunities to children who have never had the chance to go to camp, or participate in the wide variety of activities the camp offers. The model for this camp, developed by Father Kyle, is now spreading throughout the Gulf Coast and has been highly successful.

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the Marco Island community came together to provide aid to those in need. Local first responders, the YMCA, Christmas Island Style, the Noontime and Sunrise Rotary clubs, Kiwanis, the Board of Realtors, Restaurant Association, and many other organizations donated to provide assistance to the devastated Gulf Coast area. It was Father Kyle, along with other volunteers who drove that aide to a small community on the coast of Mississippi. That community was Pas Christian, Mississippi and it was devastated by that 2005 hurricane.

Twelve and a half years later, this is the same community Father Kyle has been asked to assume responsibility for, as the new pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church. “Our loss will be their gain. We can only wish Father Kyle and his whole family the continued success he had here on Marco Island. His family has our love and support and he will be greatly missed,” said Jack Patterson.

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